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Odisha: Scattered belongings on sand dunes stark reminder of clash over proposed JSW steel plant

Paradip, Jan 15 (PTI) Torn clothes of women, footwear, mobile phones lying on the sand dunes near Dhinkia, a coastal village in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, are a stark reminder of Friday’s clash between local residents and police over land acquisition for the proposed JSW mega steel project.

The proposed plant site near Dhinkia had turned into a battlefield on Friday as villagers clashed with the police over the demolition of betel vines.

Villagers claimed at least 40 protestors, including children and elderly people, were injured as the police baton-charged them, while an official said the police personnel was also attacked leading to injury to five of them.

A day after the clash, the entire area wore a deserted look with villagers remaining either indoors fearing arrest.

A visit to the affected village revealed that the entire population is in the grip of fear.

“We are unable to go outside our houses as policemen are maintaining a vigil on the streets. They may arrest us like the way six people were arrested on Friday. No medical team has so far visited the village to treat the injured,” said a woman in her 80s, who did not want to be named.

Debendra Swain, a former panchayat samiti member, had claimed before being taken to police custody on the previous day that 40 people were injured in police action. Eight of them were children in the age group of 9 to 11 years and 11 were above 60 years.

Dhinkia village was the epicentre of a movement against setting up of a factory by South Korean steel major Posco a decade ago.

The government has planned to allot land to JSW for its Rs 55,000 crore project from various villages, barring Dhinkia.

Meanwhile, the village under Ersama block in Jagatsinghpur district has turned into a virtual fortress with the deployment of about 15 platoons (450 personnel) to maintain law and order.

The police have set up temporary camps in the village after allegedly breaking down the bamboo barricades erected by the locals to prevent the law enforcers from entering the area.

Six villagers, including the leader of the anti-displacement movement Debendra Swain, have been arrested on the charge of rioting.

The police are also frisking all the people entering the village.

“We have been told not to allow outsiders into the village,” a security man said.

Paradip Additional SP Nimai Charan Sethi said: “The allegation of police excesses is not based on facts. The police used minimum force to disperse the mob which was getting violent.” Meanwhile, a delegation of human rights activists, led by Prafulla Samantra, was denied entry into the village.

“We were denied permission because they wanted to hide something. We have lodged a complaint at the Abhaychandpur police station,” Samantra said.

However, a BJP delegation led by former Jagatsinghpur MP, Bibhu P Tarai, visited the village and demanded a judicial probe into the incident.

BJP state president Samir Mohanty condemned the police action and demanded that the district collector should hold an all-party meeting to resolve the issue.

Congress spokesperson Nishikant Mishra said: “Violence is now being repeated in Dhinkia area. Now the state government is a party. There has been a gross violation of human rights.” “The visuals of police brutality against the poor betel growers in Dhinkia raises questions on the intention of the so-called pro-people government of Naveen Patnaik,” said Congress in a release.

OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik, AICC general secretary in charge of Odisha Chella Kumar, and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Narasingha Mishra criticised the police action in separate posts on the micro-blogging site.

CPI leader Dushmanta Das demanded a High Court-monitored probe into the “police excesses” in Dhinkia village.

Friday’s incident was the third instance when the people and police have clashed in the area.

Residents of Dhinkiahad alleged that they were stopped by the police at Mahala when they were on their way to nearby Patana village to oversee the condition of their betel vines, which they claimed to have been demolished by the authorities.

However, rejecting the allegations Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh had said policemen were attacked by the villagers and in the scuffle, about five of them had been injured.

Singh said there was no forceful acquisition of betel vines in the proposed plant site as villagers had accepted compensation for them.

The administration had recently created Mahala village after carving out some portion of Dhinkia. A section of villagers had clashed with the police at least twice last month on this issue also.

A decade ago, South Korean steel major Posco had proposed to establish its mega steel plant project in the region but failed in its bid due to strong protest from the local villagers. PTI COR AAM MM MM

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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